AS CHRISTMAS APPROACHES and the effects of the pandemic fade, people are looking to get back to “normal.” Many are planning Christmas parties and venturing into stores to buy gifts, perhaps for the first time in many months. Seeing a child’s face light up with joy when he or she unwraps a present, knowing that we gave just the perfect gift, receiving gifts in return — these moments are all part of the charm of this season.
Social occasions and gift exchanges are wonderful and even necessary traditions. Yet no amount of party going or gift giving will ultimately fill the void in our lives; even the most valuable or thoughtful gift fails to bring us lasting happiness.
The real gift we are seeking, at Christmas and throughout the year, is love. Not fleeting affection, nor a love blemished by ulterior motives. Rather, we are seeking a love that is at once passionate and pure. We are seeking a love that corresponds to that spark of divinity deep within us. We are seeking to be loved for our own sake, eternally and infinitely. Even the most authentic forms of human love do not fully satisfy the restless yearnings at the root of our being.
Christmas is indeed about gift giving. On the first Christmas night, God the Father gave us his only Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. On that star-lit night, the eternal Son of God, clothed in our humanity, entered history. He came to save us from our sins. He came to reveal the depth, beauty and utter goodness of his Father’s loving heart. Christmas is all about that pure, infinite and eternal love for which our hearts are longing.
‘In the Eucharist, we truly receive the One who loves us like no other ... we make living contact with Jesus, the gift of the Father, the gift of love and the gift of peace.’
For some, this gift of love seems out of reach, an event locked in the past, removed from the hardscrabble realities of our lives. But it is not so. Just as God the Father gave the world its redeemer on that first Christmas night, so too, Jesus, our great high priest, continuously gives himself to us in the Eucharist, just as he did at the Last Supper and on the Cross. In the Eucharist, we truly receive the One who loves us like no other — the One who emptied himself, became one of us, preached, healed, suffered and died, rising from the dead to defeat sin and death. In the Eucharist, we make living contact with Jesus, the gift of the Father, the gift of love and the gift of peace.
What should be our response to so great a gift? At the very least, we should participate in holy Mass every Sunday — unless we have a truly serious reason for not doing so. Not to take part in the Eucharist is like refusing to open a present from a loved one on Christmas morning. Unthinkable! The way we “open” the gift of the Eucharist is through faith, which is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit. Faith enables us to believe in, accept and indeed welcome Jesus’ gift of self — in our own lives and in our parishes and communities of faith. How important that we nurture and strengthen the gift of faith we received through baptism — by daily prayer and conversation with the Lord, by reading Scripture, and by regularly confessing our sins.
As you may know, the bishops of the United States are preparing to launch a multiyear Eucharistic Revival project and I am grateful that the Knights of Columbus is giving this effort wholehearted support. Each of us can play our part in supporting this effort by reviving and strengthening our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, by attending Sunday Mass, as well as daily Mass when possible, and by participating in eucharistic adoration.
As Christmas dawns, may we gratefully receive the gift of the Eucharist and experience the amazing love contained in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.
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